When it comes to social causes, Stanford University lecturer Katherine Kelly Janus knows that millennials have an intense hunger for making contributions to the world. In an essay for Quartz at Work, she lays out why companies should be using this characteristic to their advantage.

A recent survey from The Millennial Impact Report, “the largest annual survey of millennials about their engagement in social causes,” found that 55% of respondents said that a company’s commitment to social causes was a key factor in taking a new position. Beyond the notion that a company involved in cause work is admirable, millennials said they feel that the actions will translate to the company’s internal culture. As one respondent said, “I took the position here because if a company cares that much about outside causes, then I know they are invested in treating me right as an employee.”

When it comes to retention, a 2015 study at a global consulting firm suggested that employees who were involved in an off-site social impact consulting assignment were 32% less likely to leave their firm relative to their co-workers who did not participate — even when the assignment called for a temporary salary cut. One employee noted he came back refreshed from the experience and added, “it helped me stick around for another two years.”

While it’s important that a company has a vision of service, so is being able to do it right. Janus offers advice to businesses wanting to make social change, starting with the idea of group work as a way to optimize the employee experience. “Such approaches have the added benefits of team building and strengthening the whole corporate culture, helping employees to not only get to know one another better but to see that the company has a serious commitment to social engagement,” she notes.

Citing more evidence from the Millennial Impact Report, she says, “respondents said that they would prefer to apply their specific work skills to volunteering. Too many companies treat volunteering opportunities as side projects rather than developing programs that are related to the larger corporate strategy and allow employees to apply their work expertise.”

Read more about the research and how businesses can act on the findings here


  • Alexandra Hayes

    Content Director, Product & Brand, at Thrive

    Alexandra Hayes is a Content Director, Product & Brand, at Thrive. Prior to joining Thrive, she was a middle school reading teacher in Canarsie, Brooklyn.